Back to school, the best time of the year - at least through grade school. During the summer months, Kumar attended family events and entertained visiting cousins from India. He would tell them of how he played basketball, went swimming at the Municipal Pool and looked at the pretty American girls in their bikinis. Kumar's cousins were impressed with their Western cousin's soire de vive, but reminded him - he is still going to marry that girl in India.
Once back in class, Kumar secretly eyed Rhupal but did not let his American buddies know. The American boys barely noticed Rhupal's simmering dark beauty - the American boys only had eyes for games, food and bikes. Kumar was a good student, able to outrank his classmates in math, science and history but not so much in the social sciences. As the various American and Religious holidays came and went, he was invited to his friends homes. He would bring one of his mom's specialties but for the most part - the plate sat at the end of the table - uneaten - not because of taste but more because of unfamiliarity with the food. Observing his friends in their homes with their #siblings, cousins and various other family members - only emphasized to him - that although born here - he was not really considered American - more of a token Indian friend. He didn't mind - he was still part of the "streeters" and when the guys were biking - there was no difference.
Kumar sailed through grade school and entered the local public school. Things were a little different now, because classes were sorted by aptitude, Kumar was separated from his friends. Rhupal was in some of his classes. Kumar and Rhupal became lab partners. The teacher thought the two students would work well together. Their interest in the sciences, gave them a common bond - their families' insistence on excellent grades gave them another bond - but that is where it ended - she from the north and he from the south. Kumar would stand behind Rhupal at the lab table and inhale the jasmine she used in her shampoo. He thought no one knew what he was doing....
As lab partners, the two students had to meet occasionally outside of school to finish a project. The local library was walking distance to both of their homes, and was a safe place for the kids the meet. There were local stories of kids being abducted off the streets - common place in India - but not so much in the USA. India is a place, where a poor child may be picked up off the streets, and missed by her mother but the father is happy to be rid of another mouth to feed. Sad but true, human trafficking is easy in such poor countries.
During high school years, there were more school social events with more chances to mingle with the girls. Kumar's friends, now local football and basketball heros were easily attracting girls while Kumar's only real female friend was Rhupal. In public, Rhupal barely acknowledged Kumar - she mixed in with the girls more, joined the gymnastics team and cheerleaders. That kind of stung Kumar; but he knew that she was promised to another man anyway and although he was nearly 6' by the time he finished high school - Kumar was still afraid of Rhupal's father and other family members. It must be a secret among men, they know the wicked thoughts of a man (especially of HS age) - so they protect their own women fiercely.
Kumar was destined for an IT career - his classes were geared toward IT and his family had so many friends who would hire him immediately upon graduation from an accredited college. So while Kumar's focus during HS years may have swayed a little - his family (mostly his mum) kept him grounded in his future. To keep the family promise (and of course, the family name) to marry the wealthy girl from India, Kumar had to have something in return. Before marrying, Kumar must prove that he was a man who could afford a wife, children, a home and the ability to send his wife to India once or twice per year. Or worse, to have her family in his home - once or twice per year. Seems like small sacrifices now, but to a young man under 25 - this was a tall order.